Impounded vessel allegedly used for oil theft still with us -Nigerian Navy

MT Prestigious, allegedly used for crude oil theft in the Niger Delta, which operatives of the Nigerian Navy recently took into custody, has not been released, a Nigerian Navy source has said.

A group, Niger Delta Renaissance Network, NDRN, had accused the Navy of releasing the vessel initially apprehended by private security.

In a statement by its spokesman, Gabriel Aniete, the group had said it uncovered a concerning incident involving the arrest and subsequent release of a ship carrying stolen crude oil.

NDRN had alleged that a private security firm contracted to monitor pipeline vandalism and oil theft in Nigeria intercepted the MT Prestigious ship.

It, also alleged that the Nigerian Navy, acting on orders from above, intervened and granted the release of the arrested ship.

However, speaking in confidence to PRNigeria, a naval officer noted that the impounded vessel in question was not released, as the investigation into its (the vessel’s) activities is still ongoing.

According to the officer: “The online report of the Nigerian Navy releasing the vessel is misleading. We have not found the ground to free the vessel, which is being accused of allegedly stealing crude oil from our shores.

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“However, the media and general public will be availed of our findings after our investigation.”

It was also gathered that the vessel’s owner, Newcross Exploration and Production Limited, NewcrossEP, wrote Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission, NUPRC, regarding an investigation by the IGP Illegal Bunkering Team (Operation Tantita) into alleged illegal bunkering activities on the vessel MT Prestigious.

In a letter also copied to relevant security agencies, the oil company confirmed that a security team visited the vessel on May 2, 2024, and took written testimony from the captain, representatives of NewcrossEP, and the barging vendor.

The security team requested cargo samples, but NewcrossEP required NUPRC approval and an independent laboratory to proceed.

According to the company, the Nigerian Navy suspended NewcrossEP’s operations on MT Prestigious WD and MT Montagu, pending the investigation’s conclusion.

Therefore, the exploration company sought NUPRC’s intervention to ensure due process and resolve the situation quickly. The suspension threatens to disrupt crude oil production, gas delivery, and terminal operations, with significant financial implications for the nation.

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